For me, it was just a matter of learning things I didn’t know before. I didn’t have to be convinced to change my behavior. I just had to gain full knowledge of what my behavior was supporting--its effects on my body, on society, on the environment, and on the world around me. And that was enough.
So much of the food we buy and eat today goes to such great lengths to conceal its origins and its larger effect on the world. Take some time to learn what you’re putting into your body and what you’re spending your money on. Then think about why. Then decide what you want to do about it.
Instead of going on about how important this book was to me (and completely avoiding any analysis of it as a work of literature), I think the best way to demonstrate some of the changes I’ve made is to share a few of the websites I’ve recently bookmarked. Once I started reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma, I started researching on my own. How can I make practical changes in my own life? With more information and knowledge of local resources.
- Co-Op Directory Service: Find a co-op with local, natural food near you! Plus a few good articles about where we get the food we eat.
- Local Harvest: Farms, CSAs, you-pick, farmer’s markets, meat processors… a great way to find local places near you to get quality food.
- Eat Wild: Another place to find good farmers, markets, and buying clubs near you, with an emphasis on pasture products like grass-fed cows.
- Pick Your Own: I’d actually found this site a year prior to reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma when I started canning vegetables from my garden. But the site has a ton more resources about local pick-your-own farms and how to safely store food. And you’ve never had anything like the homemade ketchup recipe on this site.
- When are they in season?: Some really nice graphics showing when certain fruits, veggies, and herbs are in season in the Northern hemisphere. Another couple options here. (I found both through this site.)
- How to harvest wild yeast: Near the end of the book, Michael Pollan makes bread from yeast he harvests from the air. Seriously! And it’s good! So that must be worth a try. (I haven’t followed these instructions yet, and they seems a bit more complicated than how he describes it, but I intend to try this soon.)
- Citric acid: Not one person I’ve mentioned this to knew it already: citric acid is a corn product! Pretty much every ingredient you can’t immediately picture is a corn product! Actual corn is great, but don’t you want to know what you’re putting in your body?
- Corn-free living: Since learning how MUCH corn we eat on a daily basis, I started to wonder. What do people with corn allergies eat? Could I make at least one meal without a single corn product? Yes, I can. (Hint: it mostly just involves avoiding processed foods.)
- Dog Food Advisor: This one is a little tangential. I used to think I was feeding my dog good, dry food. But I thought he had a sensitive stomach, because the tiniest change would throw him off. Now that I have more information, I know the food wasn’t very good. He hasn’t gotten sick once on the new food we picked out after consulting this site, despite the fact that I accidentally switched flavors on him while he was on antibiotics after minor surgery.
- CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture): This site kept popping up in my searches. It’s an organization based around Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market in San Francisco and has a ton of local resources. But it also has a lot of general information about food that can benefit everyone.
Ohio-focused info (I live in central Ohio, and naturally, I looked first for information about my local area. I’m sure a quick search would turn up similar resources for your area.)
- Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association: Ohio-based group with many webinars and in-person events about local, healthy, sustainable, and organic food. You can also search for products and farms and get updates on farm policy.
- Fox Hollow Farm: A sustainable farm in central Ohio (where I live) that seems very much in line with how Michael Pollan describes Polyface. I’ve missed the on-farm events for this season, but I plan to get here as soon as possible.
- Ohio wildlife species guides: I find I’m really curious about the plants and animals around me now. What could I eat? What should I avoid? What is invasive? What the heck is eating my Brussels sprout plants? These guides by Ohio Department of Natural Resources help.
- Snowville Creamery: If you’re drinking or eating dairy other than Snowville in central Ohio, you are so doing it wrong. Improve your life. (This Mother Jones article explains why you may be able to enjoy Snowville even if you think you’re lactose intolerant.)
- Clintonville Community Market (aka, the Clintonville Co-Op): Great local options for whole foods, processed foods, and even beauty supplies. I’ve been a member for a couple years, but I’m lazy about getting there since it’s not in my neighborhood. Probably time to get over that.
I hope that small peek conveys an idea of the wealth of information out there. You don’t have to buy into a corporate or industrial food system. You have many options whether you live in the country or the city. All you need is knowledge!